My initial thoughts about increasing vegetables and decreasing grains were along the lines of: Won’t we be hungry all the time? What will we eat? My kids won’t go for it! But we are learning how to substitute many of our grains for non-starchy vegetables. I’m finding it isn’t complicated after all. Here are some ideas for swapping grains for greens.
- Turn sandwich ingredients into a chef salad: chop deli meats and cheese into small pieces and add them to a big bowl of greens, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
- Try spaghetti sauce over tender spaghetti squash strands. If your family is hesitant, serve both spaghetti squash and whole wheat pasta spaghetti noodles. Let your family choose to try both!
- Set up a big salad bar and add extra toppings instead of breadsticks. My family loves to build their own salad. One of our favorites is a delicious cobb salad that contains: chopped romaine and baby spinach, grilled chicken, cherry tomato, cucumber, shredded carrot, diced hard-boiled egg, and even a sprinkle of good quality bacon and cheddar cheese.
- Take the shredded beef, tomatoes, and avocado out of the taco shell and serve as a yummy taco salad instead. Sprinkle with cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. Black beans can be a good addition which easily adds more options for children.
- Instead of a meatball sub, add your meatballs and a sprinkle of parmesan to a big bed of mixed green lettuce¾no need for dressing if you have tasty marinara sauce. Serve with crunchy carrot and celery sticks.
- Swap big romaine leaves for tortillas to make nearly anything into a tasty wrap. Try these simple Cashew-lettuce Wraps and yummy Mediterranean Chicken Wraps, or try my favorite: red peppers, sun dried tomato hummus, avocado, and cucumbers. Add olives for extra deliciousness.
- Build your burger as usual (might need to cut it in half and have more than one) and try it wrapped in lettuce¾I’ve enjoyed many hamburgers this way.
- Find the greens you like most! Experiment with different types of lettuce to see what you and your family enjoy and want to eat. We like spinach, spring mixes, and green and red leaf lettuce in salads, and we like romaine for wraps.
- As you are transitioning over, it helps to make small portions of grain an accent to the dinner, instead of the main dish. For example, try halving the pasta in a soup while substantially increasing the chopped veggies.
Personally, I found it was helpful to make these additions gradually and not to make big announcements to my family about changes on the dinner table. Another idea is to swap greens for grains in one or two meals a week, and each week find a new idea to implement. Finally, it is good to remember that bread is filling in a different way, so enjoy filling up your plate with greens (and going back for more!) so you can get full.